Saturday, 4 June 2011


Blue Ocean Restaurant
358 Uxbridge Road
Shepherd's Bush
020 8765 6354

I am no longer a vegan. I lasted precisely one month.

At first my body, unaccustomed to so many beans and pulses, rebelled in painful and occasionally antisocial ways. By the end of the second week I felt good, and after 25 days I had a minor epiphany - there was nothing dead inside me. I was completely alive. Alive, but so damn tired of falafel and bean salads.

One reason the veganism had to end was this blog. I flirted with the idea of running vegan reviews, but after dining at Pogo, a strictly vegan Hackney cafe and a "positive alternative to the unyielding dominance of mainstream capitalist culture", I decided this was a terrible idea. I could only joke about anaemic, brittle-spined, woolly jumper-wearers so many times before I became one of them. In truth, I quite liked Pogo and its revolutionary battle cries and its impressively cheesy tofu burgers, although they didn't appreciate my lame jokes - "you do accept Visa, yeah?".

I suppose I'm just a big ol' carnivore. I broke my fast with a piece of black pudding at the brilliant Euskal Etxea, a pintxos bar in Barcelona. And to prove I was no longer tempted by a herbivorous lifestyle, I went to El Vaso De Oro a couple of days later and ate this. Now the bloodthirstiness is back, I wanted to choose one of the many countries where veganism is considered a mental illness. Somalia, with its reputation for being the world's biggest basket-case, should fit the bill nicely.

Gratuitous joke: the restaurant is named Blue Ocean after the preferred workplace of most Somali males.

Blue Ocean, which has a high-quality commercial on the YouTubes, is a functional, nondescript little place serving seafood, Somalian and pasta dishes - Somalia was an Italian colony for 15 years before WWII. While I have been viewed suspiciously when attempting to visit Somali cafes in the past (one in Cricklewood wouldn't even let me in), the welcome here was very friendly.

We asked for traditional food and received a Somali salad (essentially a Greek salad with boiled egg and a sugary Thai-style chilli sauce drizzled over the feta) and two lamb dishes with unpronounceable names. The first was a roasted chop served with red peppers, mashed potato and a spicy sauce. The other was closer to a stew, with small chunks of tender meat in hot sauce. They came with rice and a pot of a fantastically fiery and deceptively white chilli paste. My freshly squeezed mango juice was a treat.

It's estimated that there are as many as 100,000 Somalis in London. It's a culture few Londoners know much about, but the food is pretty tasty and Blue Ocean's a good place to try it. Especially if you like meat.